I came down with a bad case of writer’s block about two weeks into Tracer edits. The book needed a new beginning and I always knew it would. I drafted the outline, wrote a summary for the book, and set in to write. A plan for three new chapters blossomed into a total of nine. Nine.
Tracer is starting at a different point than I thought it would originally, but that’s okay. It’s better for Allie, better for the readers. And then I stumbled over something that seemed like it would be relatively easy to write. I knew point A, obviously. My character was inhabiting that place. I knew (and so did she) what point B was. But neither of us knew how to get there. I tried a few things and none of it clicked, so I followed the best course of action I know for working through writer’s block: I backed off. I closed Scrivener, made my way through a few books that had been hanging out on the To-Read shelf on GoodReads (Ready Player One. So much love.), and finally landed at the feet of Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of organization.
What does this have to do with writing? Kondo mentions in her book that often a cluttered space is the sign of mental clutter. So, I dove right in. Getting rid of clothes I hated was a breeze. I sorted and folded and found joy and gleefully got rid of things that just didn’t spark… anything. That section done, I could already feel the cloud lifting. I started to write. Chapters one, two and three were done before the block hit. Chapter Four, my initial stumbling point, rolled out. Chapter Five… six… I kept moving through the KonMari method. Time to tackle the books. Between my husband and I, we have a few hundred books. When I add in the shelves of kids books… numbers get big. We’re readers.
I knew before diving in that it was going to be hard. I derive great pleasure from having these books near me. The built-in shelves are just an arm’s reach from my desk, and the books cross all kinds of boundaries. We have non-fiction books about the history of agriculture, we have fiction books that amount to fan fiction for Star Trek. There are textbooks, two sets of Harry Potter (US and UK), anthologies, an OED… the list goes on. I started taking things off the shelf to send to Half Price Books. I sent some mass-market books that I loved, but knew I wouldn’t read again. I picked two full bags of cookbooks that I’d never even opened. And when I had four bags down, I felt that little bubble of accomplishment. I had shelves full of books that would be read and cherished. Books that we would pass on to our sons, use to supplement their education. This was a carefully curated collection.
And yet, when I took those bags into the book store… I didn’t feel a relief at letting them go. Those books weren’t going to be read by me again, but they had been selected and enjoyed. They’d had a purpose. I realized the importance of something in the organizing book that I’d neglected to consider: it’s necessary to say goodbye to these things we let go. It’s vital to acknowledge the role the things you let go have played in your life. In my case, it was easy enough to do with my clothes, but for some reason, I didn’t give myself the mental space to let the books really go.
So, to the cookbooks… thank you for giving me the connection to the family who thought I’d enjoy them, and for teaching me about making ice cream, and the ingredients for at least seventeen kinds of bbq sauce.
Thanks to the mass-market books that gave me a deep love for paranormal and urban fantasy.
Thanks to the women’s fiction and the general fiction and that strange book on being Irish. Thanks for the words and the entertainment and the lessons.
I reminded myself that it’s important, to me, to let books live in other spaces, and not just on my shelves. Do you keep all the books you buy, or do you let them move on?